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What the modern professional services marketer needs to succeed

From understanding your audience to leveraging new technologies, we spoke to Amir Hussain, Head of Marketing for Customer Breach Support, Managed Risk Services at Deloitte, about the challenges facing professional services marketers and what they can do to respond.

Q. You’re part of the Customer Breach Support (CBS) team at Deloitte, a relatively new service for the firm. Where do you begin when you’re building a new team and service from scratch?

A: When I joined the CBS team at Deloitte, it was like joining a start-up business. Although we are part of a large infrastructure, we had to build the business, engage with new clients and establish a team around us. My objectives were pretty clear: to grow the business and establish the CBS brand in the marketplace.

To go about achieving this, my first step was to understand our key buyers’ issues and concerns surrounding data breaches. And, quite often, a lot of professionals in marketing don’t necessarily focus on that. There is often pressure to start running campaigns and launching new activities, that it’s easy to forget about what our clients or customers actually want or need.

We spent a considerable amount of time on market research to inform our sales and marketing approach, largely because we wanted to understand what people like to read about cyber security, how they consume that content and the burning issues that keep them awake at night. I wanted to know what value we were getting from our content, because sometimes you see the page views and forget that it needs to do more than just generate traffic.

You need a sharp focus of what you put out into the marketplace and what you want people to do with it. And, at the initial planning phase, having that insight was fundamental to informing our strategy and plans.

Q. How did the market research inform your decision making when creating this strategy?

A. A key discovery for me, more than anything else, was to look at the data behind our firm wide campaigns. Having worked in professional services for many years, I know that we can sometimes be guilty of making the same mistakes over and over: sending out the same things, in the same way to our target audience. But if you do a proper analysis of the data behind these campaigns, often you’ll find that those same tactics are not as successful as they once were.

You can’t base your marketing activity on assumptions — especially today, when things are changing so fast due to the rise in automation and AI technology platforms. At Deloitte, we believe we do a great job of giving fresh insights to our audiences and we often publish long, in-depth reports to do this.

But what we found more recently from our research is that not everyone has the time to download a long report and read it all. There is a demand, among our target audience, for shorter, easy-to-consume insights. So now, we’re producing shorter pieces of content that dissect the key pieces of information into something that will resonate.
It is crucial to understand the different ways in which audiences consume content and have a mix of activity across channels, both online and offline, to cater to their preferences.

Q. You mentioned that in professional services, it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the same thing all the time. How can you stand out in this industry, which is often seen as quite risk-averse?

A. The common challenge across the big four practices is that we’re all offering broadly similar services and solutions. So, the challenge is to communicate what Deloitte can offer that other firms can’t do. And that comes down to understanding the client’s issues. As a firm, we don’t go out to the market and say, here’s a service and we think you should buy it.

Every client has different challenges that they face, so, for us, it’s about understanding those key drivers and communicating that through our marketing efforts so that our clients feel we are listening and can be a credible partner to navigate them through those issues. Credibility is hugely important for us — we want our clients to know that what we do can help them in their roles in a real and practical way.

Q. Those tactics sound very long-term. Do you ever feel pressure to really push the product to see immediate results?

A. The Partners here at Deloitte are ultimately responsible for growing the business, and they see marketing as a fundamental pillar in that growth. Our priorities in marketing are very much around brand positioning and making sure that Deloitte is front of mind.

I understand that in B2B marketing there is a lot of short-term objectifying, but for us it’s all about nurturing long-term gain. We are a business built on relationships. So, for us, it’s how can marketing play a role in building those relationships, rather than building sales.

Our products are often seen as a high involvement purchase, no one is going to see a social media ad and decide then that they want to buy from us. More likely, a decision maker is going to consider a number providers and then talk with their board, so it’s important for us to be at the forefront of those opportunities. What marketing can do is build credibility for the brand, so that when the decision maker is making a call on what firm to go with, we are the brand that is front of mind.

Q. In B2B, there seems to be a bit of tension between the reliance on relationships and new technologies. How do you reconcile keeping that personal touch, but also leveraging the new tech in your marketing?

A. I think it’s a difficult one. On the one hand, building business relationships often needs to be done face-to-face and frequently to build trust, which tends to go against the nature of technology which can often be seen as doing things at arm’s length.

One way we’re using technology to bridge that gap is by making the digital communications we send out more tailored. The last thing we want to do is send clients automated emails where they feel like they are just one of thousands getting the same note. We want to personalise the messaging, whether that’s to make it specific to their industry or just to that individual.

So, when it comes to the interplay between technology and relationships, I don’t think we’ve fully solved that problem yet. I think in professional services, we’re a few years away from really changing the way that we do things using tech platforms.

Q. How do you think professional services marketers can keep up with the changes in the industry?

A. I think it’s very important to continue to refresh your knowledge, go on digital marketing courses to learn new skills, talk to peer groups and attend marketing conferences. I also think there’s a huge value in learning from other industries that are using technology to their advantage.

I think the pace of change in marketing will accelerate in the next 3 to 5 years. The pace is quite frightening! I think we’ll be relying almost wholly on technology — and most of the traditional channels to market will be different. The marketers that are going to win in the future are the ones who are applying that technology now and understanding how it is impacting their results and adding value to their business. That’s the reality of marketing of the future.

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